An IiT Blog

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India’s new voters: We are connected

EconomistThe Economist has dedicated significant coverage in their April 5th issue (including their cover) to the Indian elections. Check out their briefing on the youth vote in India which features data from the Lok Surveys. They argue that India’s political climate is undergoing dramatic shifts due to changes in the electorate (more young people and female voters), rapid urbanization, and rising incomes. The article also discusses the cult of personality around Narendra Modi and the voter’s prioritization of economic growth. Vaishnav and Swanson’s graph, highlighted in the issue, shows how voters today, more than in the 1990’s, are making their decisions on whether to re-elect incumbents based on the economic growth over their term.

The trend is towards pragmatism, says Rajiv Lall of the Lok Foundation; politicians need to focus more on delivering development. Not everyone welcomes that. A political commentator in his club in Kolkata—West Bengal is India’s strongest bastion for lefties—harrumphs that “the post liberalisation generation, the 22-year-old, thinks there is only one God, that is GDP.” Read more…


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TOI Series Article 4

Corruption and Access to BenefitsRead the final installment of the Sunday Times of India four part series “The Indian Lok FoundationVoter: Inside Out” this time written by Dr. Rajiv Lall, the founder of the Lok Foundation. In the article, Lall reconciles conflicting findings from the Lok Surveys about the importance of caste and economics to the election. He argues that the Lok Surveys reveal an Indian voter  that is “very pragmatic… looking to make an electoral choice in pursuit of his or her economic interests by relying on candidates and parties that he/she thinks will deliver results in a context marked by weakening institutions, poor governance, and increasing competition for upward social mobility.” 

Read the article here or on

Learn more about the project and our findings.

Read about our research methodology.

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Milan Vaishnav on Charlie Rose

Watch Tuesday’s episode of Charlie Rose on PBS which includes a discussion about the upcoming Indian election with Milan Vaishnav from the Lok Survey project team, Sadanand Dhume, Professor Arvind Panagariya and Jonathan Shainin. The discussion begins at 28:17. You can also watch the video on

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It’s the economy, stupid

This post was written by Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment, a member of the Lok survey research team.

In our second piece (of our four-part series with the Times of India), we discussed the issues that matter most to voters in India’s 2014 elections.  The Lok survey asked all respondents the following question:

“I want to ask you about the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to be held in 2014. These are the MP elections for electing the Central Government in Delhi. Which of the following issues will influence your voting choice the most? Pick ONLY ONE”:

The chart below displays the responses.  Economic growth was the number one issue, followed by corruption and inflation/price rise. The only other issue to break double digits was “changes in personal family income.” The dominance of economic concerns is striking: three of the top four issues are economic in nature (and it could be argued that the fourth, corruption, is linked with the economy).

Figure 1

Yet what is not clear from Figure 1 is how issue preferences vary by state. To understand the variation in issue preference across India, we created a color-coded matrix of the top three election issues by state. The dominance of the top three issues—growth, corruption and inflation—holds even when we disaggregate by state.

Growth was a “top 3” concern in nearly all states except for Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (UP). Bihar and UP are moved first and foremost by concerns with corruption, with is understandable perhaps given their reputations for poor governance, followed by law and order (Bihar) and personal income (UP). Inflation ranks third in both states.  What is remarkable is, across all states, how few respondents identified issues related non-corruption related issues of governance or personal standing as priorities.

Figure 2

What does this chart tell us?

First, voters are angry about the state of the macro-economy and are much more seized with what political scientists refer to as “socio-tropic” economic concerns rather than pocketbook issues. Given that these issues fall within the purview of the central government, this is not good news for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Second, despite the occasional bursts of protest and media attention on issues of pubic safety, law and order does not seem to be a top issue in most Indian states, with the exception of Bihar and Kerala.  Interestingly, despite their many differences, voters in Kerala are equally bothered by corruption and are the only two states to identify law and order as a priority concern.

Third, Neelanjan commented on the low ranking of identity issues in his previous post (and we will have more to say about this in next Sunday’s Times of India piece). But one issue which does not figure into any state’s list of top 3 priorities is “leadership.” It could be that the concept is too vague for voters to grasp, but its low rating seems odd given the association of this attribute with BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.  What this perhaps reveals is that voters are not looking for a strong leader in the abstract; it’s really direction on the economy they are looking for.  Thus it appears that in India, as in the United States, it really is about the economy, stupid.

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TOI Series Article 2

BJP supporters - Flickr - Al Jazeera English

Read the newest installment of our four-part series on the Lok Survey results, “Growth is No. 1 poll issue for voters, survey shows” written by Devesh Kapur, Milan Vaishnav, and Neelanjan Sircar. The survey results showed that overall economic growth was the primary election issue with personal pocketbook concerns like access to government benefits and changes in personal family income falling behind the macroeconomic picture for most Indians. Corruption came in second overall but was the primary election issue in several states including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Read about the survey methodology here.

For a peek at analysis to come in future installments of the Times of India Series, check out this recent article in The Hindu about the Lok Survey, “The continuing grip of caste.” Also, stay tuned to this blog more more in-depth analysis.

Photo by Al Jazeera English (BJP supporters) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Milan Vaishnav discusses Lok Survey on Bloomberg TV

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5 Big Indian Election Myths- Financial Times

Financial Times ran a recent story about the Lok 2014 Pre-election Survey results titled, “India elections, survey shatters five big election myths.” The “5 Myths of Indian elections” is in reference to a recent presentation of survey findings by Devesh Kapur of CASI and Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment. In it, they busted the following widely held misconceptions about the Indian voter:

  1. Regionalism is surging
  2. Good economics DOES NOT equal good politics
  3. Voters are fed up with dynasties
  4. Lack of information breeds criminality
  5. Vote your caste, not cast your vote

Over the next few weeks, we will highlight how data from the Lok 2014 Pre-election Survey debunks these myths so stay tuned and follow this blog.